Saturday 1 October 2016

Girls dig deep to win Young Scientist prize

Jane O'Faherty

Published 09/01/2016 | 02:30

Shay Walsh, BT Ireland,and Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan present the BT Young Scientist 2016 overall prize to Maria Louise Fufezan and Diana Bura. Photo: Fennell Photography
Shay Walsh, BT Ireland,and Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan present the BT Young Scientist 2016 overall prize to Maria Louise Fufezan and Diana Bura. Photo: Fennell Photography
Jean-Pierre Thébault , the French Ambassador to Ireland, talks to Niamh Cusack and Amy Looney from Salesian Secondary College, Pallaskenry. Photo: Tony Gavin

Two transition year students from north county Dublin have scooped the coveted BT Young Scientist of the Year award for their study on the effects of animal feed on worms in the soil.

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Maria Louise Fufezan (16) and Diana Bura (15) of Loreto Secondary School, Balbriggan, beat 1,200 pupils who submitted 550 projects, to take home a €5,000 cheque and they will represent Ireland at the European Union Young Scientist competition in Brussels later this year.

"I don't think there has been a word created to describe what we're feeling right now," Diana told the Irish Independent. "Everyone was cheering and our friends were screaming."

Their project looked at the effect of enzymes present in animal feed on worms in soil. Both girls hope for a career in medicine after their Leaving Cert.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan and Shay Walsh, Managing Director of BT Ireland, presented them with the award.

The girls' teacher, Niamh McNally, said she had the "most wonderful students".

"The girls have spent months and months working with C. elegans worms, working on their experiment," she said. "They are just so passionate about it."

But the girls weren't the only Loreto ladies from Balbriggan to win big. Renuka Chintapalli (16) also won the Individual Runner-Up Prize for her project developing a predictive tool for identifying certain biomarkers of oesophageal cancer metastasis.

Meanwhile, Shane Curran (16) from Terenure College won the Best Individual Award for the project 'Velodrome: The Automated Logistics Fulfilment Platform'.

The award for Runner-Up Group went to sixth-year students Gabriel Barat (17) and Adrian Wolniak (16) from Synge Street CBS, Dublin 8, for their mathematical project on coffee rust.

Ms O'Sullivan said the timing of the three-day exhibition in the RDS at the beginning of a new year marks a new phase in the competitors' lives and "the beginning of a love affair with science, with scholarship and research".

"This event provides you with a wonderful opportunity to showcase your talent and potential. It allows you to develop your natural instincts of curiosity and, as Einstein once said, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious," the minister added.

Elsewhere, sunburnt horses have little to fear from a heatwave this summer, as two girls from Tipperary presented their equine suncream. Rachel O'Connell and Eimear Darcy from St Joseph's School, Tipperary, developed their own formula after testing various products on the animals.

While pigs and humans are known to be the most susceptible to sunburn, cows, sheep and horses are also at risk.

Rachel (13) told the Irish Independent that they mixed various products, including Sudocrem, high-factor sunblock and insect repellent together to make their own cream.

Irish Independent

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